“The industry has more legislative items on its agenda than it has ever had in its history,” said Steve Ackerman, AAHomecare chairman and president of Spectrum Medical Inc., at this week’s Washington Legislative Conference.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday and today, home medical equipment industry stakeholders have been meeting with members of Congress and staff on a full menu of legislative issues as part the American Association for Homecare’s annual Washington Legislative Conference.
The conference has facilitated more than 300 meetings between HME industry members and the offices of Representatives and Senators, and those HME advocates are packing a portfolio brimming with policy asks.
“For this year’s Washington Conference, the industry has more legislative items on its agenda than it has ever had in its history,” said Steve Ackerman, AAHomecare chairman and president of Spectrum Medical Inc. “… We’re representing all aspects of Homecare.”
That portfolio includes the following objectives:
- A House sign-on letter calling on HHS and CMS to walk-back their decision to include non-invasive ventilators in Round 2021 of competitive bidding. (A Senate companion to that letter has been in the making during the conference.)
- H.R. 2771, which calls for reforms to competitive bidding in order to permanently provide rural and non-bid area relief, as well as eliminate the oxygen budget neutrality requirement.
- H.R. 2408, which would require Medicare to create a separate benefit category for complex rehab technology (CRT) wheelchairs.
- H.R. 2293 and S.1223, House and Senate bills that would permanently exclude manual complex rehabilitative technology (CRT) wheelchairs from the competitive bidding program and will delay Medicare from applying competitive bidding-derived reimbursement rates to accessories for manual CRT wheelchair for 18 months.
- Also, members of the industry are discussing the broader issues of audit reforms and CMS’s plans to expand its prior authorization program with lawmakers and their staff.
“There’s a good amount of asks we’ve got here,” AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan observed. “Between the three CRT bills; the bill that just dropped last week, H.R. 2771; and now the ask on the ventilators, there are a lot of takeaways here. So it’s a great opportunity.
Ryan added that H.R. 2771 was already seeing some good traction in the House.
“The bill dropped on Thursday and we picked up four co-sponsors on Monday,” Ryan says. “I really hope we can get to high double digits just by working the Hill this week.”
While the meetings are ongoing, as well as after them, industry leaders are calling on HME providers who couldn’t make the trip to Washington, D.C. to support the Washington Conference by participating in a virtual fly-in. Participants of the virtual fly-in contact their lawmakers and staff via phone call, email, snail mail and social media with messages supporting the industry’s multi-pronged legislative agenda.
Providers participating in the virtual fly-in can go to the AAHomecare Action Center at action.aahomecare.org to find advocacy resources on the industry’s various agenda items, as well as tools to help them contact their lawmakers. AAHomecare’s Ryan emphasized that the virtual fly-in is essential in buttressing the effort on Capitol Hill.
“We’re here making noise on the Hill — we’re making a lot of noise — but we have a large grassroots effort out there throughout the country,” Ryan said. “If we can get the grassroots through the virtual fly-in, it just adds to the pressure.”
For providers unsure of how to dialog with lawmakers or their staff, industry legal expert and advocate Jeffrey S. Baird Esq., chairman of the Health Care Group at the industry law firm Brown & Fortunato P.C., underscored the need to keep their messaging simple.
“We have to realize that we here in the DME industry and other stakeholders, we live and breathe this stuff as part of our day-to-day lexicon,” Baird explained. “However, the folks that we are talking to — and normally it’s going to be the legislative assistants, not the elected Representative or Senator — they normally have little to no knowledge of the DME industry.
“… The key then is to approach this with a ‘See spot; See spot run’ type approach,” he continued. “We try to describe the industry very quickly; we try to present the issues in a very simple way; we give some key buzzwords so that they can take away a basic knowledge of what we need; and then, of course, we give them resource materials.”
Ryan added that providers shouldn’t feel nervous about these contacts, noting that “If you’re in this business you know sales, so use your basic sales skills … use your passion.” He also reminded providers that members of Congress want to have these types of dialogs.
“At the end of the day, the providers are constituents, and lawmakers want to hear from the constituents,” Ryan said. “And we have to make sure they’re heard.”